With the Lakers lone 2nd round draft choice, they selected Duke forward, Ryan Kelly. Kelly is a 6’11″ 230 pound small/power forward. Going into the draft, the Lakers knew they needed a stretch power forward who could create some floor spacing. Kelly was the best option available and was thought to be a perfect fit for the Mike D’Antoni system. The only issue was a foot injury that caused Kelly to miss the middle of his season at Duke and the NBA Summer League as well. As of now, Kelly says his foot is 100%, but as you can imagine he hasn’t played high level basketball since his injury in January.
Ryan Kelly spent four seasons at Duke, posting a career winning % of .890, going 105-13 during his career. Basketball is obviously a team sport, but coming from a winning pedigree is a valuable trait when coming to a franchise like the Lakers. He struggled his freshman year at Duke, but came back and improved his stats every year after. His junior and senior seasons, Kelly shot better than 40% from beyond the arc, while scoring double digits, with at least 5 rebounds and a block. He only shot 46% from the field for his career at Duke, and only shot better than 50% his sophomore season. Even though he is touted as a perfect D’Antoni-system fit, Kelly is actually a strong defensive player, at least he was at the college level. Opponents shot only 22% against Kelly last season, while he allowed only 0.53 points per possession, a stellar mark.
So how can Kelly fit in?
The best player comparison would be Ryan Anderson. Anderson is 6’10″ 240 pounds and is a career 38% three point shooter. Anderson isn’t a strong defender, but proved to be a perfect complement for Dwight Howard during their time in Orlando together. Anderson isn’t a strong rebounder for his size, only averaging 6.4 boards per game last year, but some of this can be attributed to his offensive game being perimeter oriented. Having a career like Anderson would be the best case scenario.
As of right now, Kelly isn’t even guaranteed a roster spot with the Lakers. This was not the Lakers hope when they drafted him. With strong preseason performances from Xavier Henry and Shawne Williams, Kelly is no longer a sure thing. His largest issue is the fact that he isn’t in NBA game shape right now. Having not played for such a long time clearly has hurt Kelly’s stock. This Lakers team is filled with highly motivated, eager to prove what they can do-type players, so there is a lot of competition.
When it comes down to it, I see Kelly making the team. The fact that he is a combination of defensive ability and three point shooting should alone earn him a spot on this roster. He was drafted for a reason, and although some of the camp invites have shown flashes, Kelly has a better long term outlook. To make Mike D’Antoni’s system work as effectively as possible, it must include three point shooting from almost every position. If the Lakers want to go small with their 2nd unit, Kelly could play center or power forward. If the Lakers want to include more floor spacing and size, they can bring in Kelly at the small forward position. He is incredibly versatile and can be a weapon off the bench.